Wine Belly Is a Thing—What Can You Do About It?

Medically reviewed by John Mendelson, M.D. on

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Do you enjoy having a nice glass—or a few nice glasses—of wine in the evening? Do you often gather with friends to catch up over a bottle—or two? The occasional drink is a common routine for many people, and wine can seem like a classier option. There have even been rumors that it can be good for your health.

However, wine is not without its drawbacks. If you thought you could avoid a larger gut by avoiding beer, you may be surprised to see your midsection growing anyway! What is this phenomenon? It turns out that “wine belly” is a thing, and too much wine can lead to extra fat around the belly—just like with beer.

Let’s look at why wine belly happens, and what you can do to win your “battle of the bulge.”

Wine Belly vs Beer Belly

Wine Belly
Image by Tim Mossholder from Unsplash

So, does wine cause belly fat? If so, how is it different than a beer belly?

Wine belly and beer belly are actually the same thing. All forms of alcohol contain calories, and it is well known that consuming extra calories can help you put on extra weight. Not all drinks are created equal: Light beer, for instance, contains an average of 103 calories per serving. Regular beer contains roughly 153 calories.

Most wines fall somewhere in between, averaging 121 to 129 calories per five ounce glass. This means that wine is slightly better than most beer. But imagine knocking back enough glasses of wine to keep pace with a couple of beer buddies. In the end, would it make a huge difference?

Then, there are disparities in gender, drinking, and weight gain. Wine seems to be more popular among women. Beer bellies are often associated with male drinkers, and it’s true that men tend to develop belly fat more quickly. On the other hand, it appears that women store more fat in their bodies overall. This is especially true after menopause.

It can also take more time for women to lose extra weight from their abdomen. As a result, even if men can develop a gut more easily, consuming excess calories is not a good idea for women either. No matter who you are or what beverage you prefer, excessive drinking is likely to give you some kind of belly.

Does Wine Make You Bloated?

What about bloat? Isn’t wine a better choice than beer in this respect?

As with calorie content, beer may be a bit worse than wine in terms of bloating. But it’s important to remember that both contain yeast—and sugar that can feed that yeast. In other words, wine can definitely cause your gut to expand while you are digesting it. Even if you aren’t putting on any weight, drinking too much wine can temporarily expand your waistline.

In summary, does red wine make you gain weight? The answer is yes, it does, if you drink enough of it. The same applies to white and pink wines. In terms of weight gain from beer vs wine, beer may be slightly worse, but the two are similar overall.

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Is Liquor Better Than Wine?

Does switching to the harder stuff help you avoid bloating and weight gain? Let’s take vodka vs wine as an example.

Vodka does have fewer calories than wine. But beware—once you start mixing vodka with anything other than club soda, you’re probably consuming more sugar than in a single serving of wine or beer.

On top of this, making a habit of drinking hard liquor is hard on your body in a variety of other ways. It’s best not to have more than one serving of alcohol per night. And honestly, what would you rather sip after a long day: a tasty glass of wine, or a single, straight shot of vodka?

The Cultural Effect: Women & Wine

One reason why the issue of “wine belly” is often overlooked may be that wine has become so socially acceptable.

The phenomenon of “mommy wine culture,” for example, has made it seem normal for women to drink large amounts of wine to cope with stress—or just to socialize. While small amounts of wine may be okay, this trend actually seems to be masking an increase in alcoholism among women.

At the same time, wine has received a lot of positive press for containing polyphenols)—antioxidants that may protect against heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. With this combination of cultural approval and perceived health benefits, it’s easy to feel as if you can drink all the wine you want.

Unfortunately, upon closer scrutiny, it turns out many of the benefits of red wine are a myth. As we’ve covered recently, the polyphenols in red wine are likely too low to have any real health impact. And even if they weren’t, the potential negative health effects of alcohol (including liver disease, hypertension, and heart damage) would quickly outweigh the benefits.

Does Wine Help You Lose Belly Fat?

Wine Belly
Image by Gesina Kunkel from Unsplash

One often-stated health benefit of red wine is that it may help you lose weight. While it’s true that having the occasional glass probably wont hurt you, it probably won’t do much to trim your waistline either.

Many of the benefits attributed to red wine have to do with a specific polyphenol called resveratrol. A 2015 study suggested resveratrol may help convert one kind of fat into another type which is easier to burn off.

Wine contains resveratrol. But here’s the kicker: so does fruit in general. In fact, regular table grapes have a much higher concentration of resveratrol than wine. The amount of wine you’d need to drink to equal a simple bowl of fruit would contain enough extra calories that it would probably offset any benefit.

As for red wine vs white wine for weight gain, it matters much more the calorie content than the type. Since resveratrol levels in red wine are too low to make much difference, it really comes down to whether the wine is dry or sweet. Dry is generally a better call.

In summary, the public discussion around wine has made it seem more harmless than it really is. In reality, drinking wine can affect your health as much as any other type of alcohol, including your weight.

Alcohol Belly vs Hormonal Belly

What about the difference between gaining weight from drinking too much, and simply gaining weight because of changes in your hormones?

It’s true that increased insulin resistance and reduced estrogen production, particularly as you get older, can cause abdominal gain weight. How can you know if it’s wine or your hormones causing the difference?

Try cutting out wine (or any type of alcohol) for a month, and see if it changes anything. This should also be paired with a generally healthy, well-balanced diet; if you’re still eating a lot of sugar it may be hard to tell the difference.

But the truth is, even if your belly is affected by changing hormones, drinking less alcohol will probably help you keep it under control. No matter what, the answer is often to drink less alcohol.

How To Lose Belly Fat Caused By Alcohol

So, how does someone get rid of belly fat that’s caused by drinking too much wine? The good news is that you don’t have to cut wine out of your life completely to eliminate a wine belly. Learn how to properly moderate your drinking, rather than completely cutting off wine or going cold turkey.

Does Drinking Wine Every Night Cause Weight Gain?

Studies indicate that light, occasional alcohol consumption doesn’t have a big impact on your weight. So if you can stick to one serving per night, you may be okay.

The main issues are heavy drinking and binge drinking: four or more glasses on one occasion, or more than 7 glasses per week overall. If you’re able to consistently moderate your wine consumption, you’ll be consuming fewer calories and will have a better chance of getting rid of wine belly for good.

If you find that your wine consumption has gotten beyond this, there are solutions that can help you cut back. Ria Health can help you achieve moderation again through a combination of counseling, medication to reduce cravings, and handy digital tools. Best of all, the whole thing can be done privately through your smartphone.

Learn more about how our program can help you say goodbye to wine belly, and establish an improved relationship with alcohol.

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Written By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
Medically reviewed by John Mendelson, M.D. on

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